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10 December 2009 @ 10:14 pm
The travels of Brammers, part 6  
Is it possible that I might be in bed and asleep by 10.30pm tonight? (Actually, the answer to that is 'Depends on whether or not Mr Brammers checks in at a reasonable time.')

Today was the National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery, and the Household Cavalry Museum. I am the Ghengis Khan of cultural institutions, sweeping through all in a mighty sort of sweepy thing, though leaving a trail of pound coins, rather than devastation, behind me. And if that sentence doesn't show you that today has seen jetlag hit, I do not know what will.

The day started with the most restrained attack on Charing Cross of my life: I restricted myself to two Joan Aikens, though both were first editions. I so nearly had a Mortimer and Arabelle book in my clutches, too, but sadly it turned out to be apocryphal.

The Portrait gallery was an enjoyable experience, though my fave Henry Wife Portrait (Catherine Parr in the red) was not on display (Boo! Hiss!) I had a lovely chat with one of the staff about Tudor dress and how it faked parts of the body and moved with others. Apparently people ask him all the time why Elizabeth is so skinny in her Coronation portrait, and I may have become a little animated in my descriptions of how corsets and busks and farthingales and petticoats and fabric all interact to create artificial effects on the body, because we drew a small crowd, despite whispering. I think I will give my MoL friend a heads-up that a How 16th Century Dress Goes Together thingy could be a real winner. They had very lovely staff there, who were all keen and bright, a very nice thing.

The National Gallery has the same massivity as the British Museum, though a little more restrained. I kept myself to Europe in the renaissance, as I only had an hour and a half, and I wanted to spend at least 15 minutes with the Beuckelaer four element paintings. As always, I took a wrong turn and wound up surrounded by Gainsboroughs, but this was a good thing as it meant a moment with Turner, which is never to be sneered at. There has been some re-arranging of ideas since I was there last, and I could swear there weren't that many Moronis, but I enjoyed catching up with a few old friends on the walls: and my Australia-acquired lack of self consciousness meant I was able to play Stand In The Right Spot for Foreshadowing with Holbein's Ambassadors, showing two of the young people in the room how to see the skull properly.

One of the highlights here was a room in which the techniques of Spanish polychromatic sculpture were revealed. If you have ever seen one of those slightly OTT saints or Madonnas, with the realistic skin and clothing, that populate Spanish and many South American churches, they are examples of these techniques. It was fascinating! Especially learning that the gilding was applied over whole areas and covered with tempera, which was then scraped back to reveal the gold in certain areas, and that punches were used to add texture to the gold. In one case, an apparently astonishing piece of carving was revealed to be an equally tricky, but less impossible, set of layers, with eyes and teeth behind a mask of a face and veil added separately. Really fabbo display, I thoroughly recommend it if you are in town.

I ended the day at the Household Cavalry Museum, which is a lovely little museum down at the Horse Guards (obviously). I have always liked the guards and hearing them clop by was one of the joys of being in town when I was young. The museum is still finding its feet, but it has a lovely mix of artefacts and stories from guards past and present: some very touching. My favourite part was the section that goes through the stables: a glass wall has been erected between the museum part and the active section, with horses stabled in the active, and tack hung along racks for the length of the wall, though I must say that the leather and brass visible in the active stable was cleaner than that in the museum ;-) They have not made many changes to this area, aside from the wall, so a lovely scent of horse pervades it all. Just a delight.

As I was leaving, I bought a wristband supporting the Household Cavalry in Afghanistan. Ten minutes later, I ran into three members of the Coldstream Guard at Charing Cross and bought another supporting them. It reminded me of when I was young and we had T-shirts saying that in a sane world, the army would need to have cake stalls to raise money for wars, and schools and hospitals would have all the funding they needed. Sadly, schools and hospitals continue to go to pot, but at least the banks are safe, what?

(And in case you are wondering, yes, I do support the war in Afghanistan, despite being on the whole against war and against taking action against sovereign states. I feel that states lose their rights to be treated well when they commit acts of genocide against their people. And the Taleban's involvement in killing 3000 Americans is but another reason.)
 
 
 
Admiral of Strange Shipsnoeon on December 10th, 2009 10:34 pm (UTC)
I am the Ghengis Khan of cultural institutions

Or Tamarlane the Tourist.
Penguin: Babypenguin474 on December 10th, 2009 10:45 pm (UTC)
I'm so fascinated by Holbein's Ambassadors, and how, if you don't stand in the right spot, the skull looks like a weirdly floating oyster.
It's a Deensedeensey on December 10th, 2009 11:18 pm (UTC)
You are a one woman mongol horde!
Randy: Brokebackdrgaellon on December 10th, 2009 11:25 pm (UTC)
(And in case you are wondering, yes, I do support the war in Afghanistan, despite being on the whole against war and against taking action against sovereign states. I feel that states lose their rights to be treated well when they commit acts of genocide against their people. And the Taleban's involvement in killing 3000 Americans is but another reason.)


I needs must point out your logical fallacy here. You have conflated "the Taliban" with "Afghanistan" as a whole. Unfortunately, the war is causing far more detriment to the otherwise innocent peasantry than it is to the Taliban leadership. There was a joke that was au courant here in the US in 2002. It said, "Why can't we bomb Afghanistan back to the Stone Age? Because they're already there." We are doing no harm to the Taliban, and no good to the Afghani people, at this point in time.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 11th, 2009 08:29 am (UTC)
In 2001, the Taleban to all intents and purposes was Afghanistan, which is why so very many refugees were fleeing the country even before the attacks on America. Talking to people who arrived in Australia in the preceding years was harrowing as tales of oppression that seemed more appropriate to history were commonplace.

If you follow the theatres of war, the Afghanistan war has been largely effective in following the Taleban rather than hitting random site (such as Iraq). Certainly there have been many innocent casualties, which is why I do not approve of war in general as it is a bad means of political change, but the vast majority of the actions have been appropriately targetted. Until this last year, resources have not been appropriately targetted, due to the war in Iraq, whether or not that means the whole enterprise is doomed is yet to be seen.

Let's remember that the West effectively funded the Taleban's rise and installation, and the chaos of the war before them, and so are morally responsible for the hundreds of thousands of their victims.
Randy: Magic's Pricedrgaellon on December 11th, 2009 10:57 am (UTC)
If you follow the theatres of war,

It's been very difficult here in the US to get good information on what's going on there. Afghanistan is not the "sexy" war, and very little attention is paid to it; the vast majority of the war reporting is focused on Iraq.

Let's remember that the West effectively funded the Taleban's rise and installation, and the chaos of the war before them, and so are morally responsible for the hundreds of thousands of their victims.

Yes, well, we've done that before (Cuba, Vietnam, Iraq, Nicaragua), and have yet to learn the lesson.

Edited at 2009-12-11 11:00 am (UTC)
down the hills and round the bendsnorton_gale on December 10th, 2009 11:45 pm (UTC)
What's a farthingale? I know I could look it up, but it's more fun to ask you. ;)

Thanks for taking us along on your travels! The inexhaustible Brammers in her Birks.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 11th, 2009 08:31 am (UTC)
It's a cone-shaped skirt, stiffened with hoops of cane, that holds out those big bell-shaped skirts you see in Tudor portraits. Lightweight and fun to move in!

Now so sure about inexhaustible, I have one very sore foot, but over nine hours sleep, so feeling well today!
down the hills and round the bendsnorton_gale on December 12th, 2009 12:29 pm (UTC)
I had no idea! I thought they were just wearing loads of petticoats under their overskirts.
The Ramblings of an often very distracted person.annes_stuff on December 11th, 2009 12:35 am (UTC)
I AM JEALOUS!

Did you get to see the portrait of Helena of Snakenborg?
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 11th, 2009 08:32 am (UTC)
No, she's in the Tate. Soon!
The Ramblings of an often very distracted person.annes_stuff on December 11th, 2009 02:26 pm (UTC)
My mistake!

I know even with a corset I will never have that waistline but I have some fabric begging to be made into that frock! (Something that probably won't happen for a very long time!)